The Houston Chronicle and ProPublica have been releasing a piece-by-piece dive into the heart transplant program at Houston-based Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. A previous slice found that the program’s survival rates have been slipping (I compared them to Dallas-Fort Worth programs here). The latest brings us closer to Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier, the celebrated heart surgeon who held roles as chief of the heart transplant teams at St. Luke’s and its research partner, Texas Heart Institute, and has been on a quest to build a mechanical heart.
The investigation finds that about half of the medicare patients who received an implantable heart assist device in an operation from Frazier from 2010 through 2015 died within a year, almost double the national mortality rates for those patients. In more ways than the outcomes, the reporting raises questions about whether Frazier prioritized his research and development goals ahead of his patients. Read the investigation here.